Last week I bumped into a neighbour, and we chatted about her new job. She works for a local furniture company, selling on the shop floor, and recently they’ve put her in charge of all their social media output, including of course Facebook.
Now, no offence to my neighbour – she’s a sweet, bright woman perfectly capable of handling an ambitious company’s social media output, given the right training – but – and here is exactly where that company have taken a huge risk: She hasn’t had any training. None at all.
While it’s unlikely the company would put a fairly junior, untrained member of staff in charge of dressing their shop windows, which are passed by potentially several hundred people every day, they haven’t thought twice of asking the same person to manage the windows by which the whole world can see them.
My neighbour also told me the company have severely restricted what she can post. No fun, no smiling, no silliness, just high-end, furniture-focused posts.
“Actually, I had to try to explain to them what the point of social media is,” she said, bashfully. “They just don’t get it if it doesn’t lead to a sale. I never really know what to say.”
I sympathised with her. Trying to explain the ‘point’ of social media marketing, and the reasons why Facebook is important, to people who don’t get it, and who don’t want to get it, can be tough. Especially when the most visible results might be just a few hundred ‘likes’.
On the surface, this company doesn’t seem to actually need it. They’ve been established for over fifty years. Customers travel for miles to visit them. Their furniture is expensive, and their customers are usually older people who can easily afford it.
But there’s the thing, you see: business might be okay, now. But give it a decade or two and those well-heeled customers will no longer be shlepping their Range Rovers across their country picking up furniture. They might not be leaving their homes at all, and this company, if they want to still be selling to someone, needs to think beyond their customers of now, and always, always have an eye towards their customers of tomorrow.
Social media is a big part of life today. Reading posts, liking pages, sharing videos – it’s just what we do. And yes, very few of the posts we share personally ever lead directly to sales, unless they are specific ‘50% off today if you buy online!’ type posts.
But what a well-thought out and well-executed social media campaign can and should do is help put a brand into the mind of potential customers. Even if they are twenty years away from wanting to shop there.
Funny, warm-hearted, sassy, friendly, even shocking posts can all help build brand-awareness and encourage a following. Treat them right and this is turn could lead to the ultimate gold card – customer loyalty. Be the brand your customers think of first, the one they fight and argue to defend.
Just because your product is high-end, doesn’t mean you can’t have fun, be warm-hearted, or ironic, or introduce a few key characters in your workplace who could become your very own social media spokespersons. Bring your customers into the family, ask them questions, let them pick from different designs or colours, share secrets with them.
Humans are sociable beings, we respond best when we are treated like humans, and everyone loves a bit of imperfect realism along the way. Yep, even rich people!
Be persuasive, and committed. It takes time to build a following, and your social media manager needs support. But once you’ve made it, the grass truly is greener. (And I am not even going to mention the list you are building at the same time.)
And so what if you don’t make instant sales? You never know when a group of siblings will decide to pool their savings for a new sofar to mark Mum and Dad’s anniversary. Or, in twenty years’ time, when they’ll be the ones suddenly pulling up outside your shop window on a wet Tuesday in their very own Range Rover, because they’ve “followed you on Facebook for years” and suddenly decided to fit their whole house out in your poshest, priciest, most organic, GM-free, highest-of-all-end battered-bamboo bedroom range.